Shareholders request the Board, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, issue an audited public report quantifying the rates of illness, mortality, and infant death due to coal-related air and water pollution in communities downwind and adjacent to Ameren’s coal operations, and how the Company intends to address and reduce such community impacts from its operations.
Coal use produces well-established harms to public health, including climate change, poor air quality for vulnerable communities, and water contamination.
Coal burning results in coal ash, which is laced with heavy metals such as arsenic that can contaminate water and raise cancer risk with long-term exposure. Burning coal results in sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury, and particulate matter. These pollutants can cause serious health problems, such as respiratory illness, including asthma and lung disease; heart attack; reduced life expectancy; and increased infant mortality. According to data from the Clean Air Task Force, Ameren’s four St. Louis area coal plants contribute to 300 premature deaths and over 3,000 asthma attacks per year.
In 2016, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission criticized current Environmental Protection Agency regulations for disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color. Black children in St. Louis are ten times more likely to take a trip to the emergency room for asthma attacks than their white counterparts. A study by the University of Washington and Stanford University found that Black people have the highest risk for deaths related to particulate matter pollution in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region, in which Ameren is one of the largest utilities. Coal burning also releases carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas driving climate change. Amid its many impacts, climate change intensifies extreme storms and flooding, threatening the reliability and safety of coal ash infrastructure and creating risk to downstream communities. The Company’s Labadie facility emitted 17 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2021 alone.
Yet, Ameren remains committed to coal use. In 2021, Ameren relied on coal for over 75% of its energy mix, plans to retain half of its coal generation capacity through 2030, and plans to end coal use in 2045. Given heightened awareness around environmental racism and climate injustice, Ameren’s failure to adequately address the environmental and social harms caused by its continued coal use creates material risk to the Company, including growing public controversy and the potential for regulatory fines and litigation, among others. Ameren released its Environmental Justice Principles in 2022, yet its current trajectory keeps Black and low-income communities directly in harm's way for decades to come.
Proponents suggest the report include, at Board discretion, a financial analysis of the cost to the Company of coal-related public health harms, including potential liability and regulatory actions.